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Questions to Ask a CPA Before You Hire Them

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questions to ask a cpa

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Think a CPA is a luxury?  Think gain!

I believe all business owners should have a CPA on their side. They can help you manage your the financial side of your business and personal finances that will ensure you are minimizing taxes, staying legal and maximizing retirement by having the right accounts in place.

Yet hiring one can be overwhelming.  Here are eight questions to ask before you hire a CPA.

Experience

What is your experience and do you have a PTIN – you want to make sure they have been doing taxes and accounting long enough that they have knowledge on the rules.  The PTIN is a number required by the IRS to be able to prepare taxes, if they don’t have one they can’t do your taxes!

Tax Beliefs

What are your beliefs on taxes, in other words how aggressive are they in reducing your tax bill.  How far do they push the boundaries!  You want to make sure that you are both on the same page otherwise you won’t be comfortable with the decisions your CPA is helping you make.

What Types of Entities Do You Work With

There are many types of business entities including sole proprietor, S-corp, and LLC.  You want to make sure your CPA has experience with your business structure! Each structure has different ways of doing accounting – especially on just the language they use!  Can your CPA still do your taxes if they have no experience with an LLC and you are an LLC, yes they can, but helps to know if they are using you as the test case!

What Types of Industries Do they Typically Work With

Again, there are so many industries that many CPA’s will specialize in an industry.  A CPA who specializes in restaurants might not be a good fit for a jewelry designer.   This does not mean you have to have someone with your exact industry experience, but they need have something comparable.  For example if you have a business with inventory and your CPA only works with service based businesses you again need to understand you are the test case!

Are You Available Year Round

Some CPA’s only work during tax time. The reason for hiring a CPA is to get continual guidance, you need to be able to access them twelve months a year!  If your business is not seasonal, your CPA should not be either.

Who is Doing the Actual Work

If the CPA is outsourcing the work, then they might not be as familiar with your situation.  Outsourcing to a junior partner is one thing, as they will typically review everything, but outsourcing to another company completely is a different situation!  If they are outsourcing ask your CPA how they are reviewing and staying up to date with your details.  Side note, they might only outsource some functions.  For example they might do everything but payroll.  This is not a problem, you just need to understand who is doing the work,

How Do You Charge

You want to understand if they are charging by retainer, hourly or by the tax form.  If it is hourly, what is the minimum?  Make sure you understand what you are paying for and getting!

What Software are You Using

Not being able to have your existing bookkeeping transfer to your new CPA can cause problems.  Solvable problems, but you want to make sure that you know if you need to change current service providers or if you can stay the same!

Don’t put off hiring a good CPA, they can be a great help to your business and personal finances – I personally cannot imagine not having my CPA!

1 comment
Crystal says November 9, 2014

these are excellent questions. I wish so many of the taxpayers that I have audited had read this post.

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